Friday, January 15, 2010

Misogyny in YA books?

Newest goal: 7 followers.

So, hurdling through the blogosphere as I often do late at night (er, early in the morning) I came across the review of "Shiver" on inbedwithbooks (I better put her in my blogtastic list). Anyway, I never finished Shiver, not because it was a bad book but because I'm a weird sort of non-committal reader at times, perhaps because I've never had to return my library books on time. Also, a lot of the time when I read, I stop because I'm like "I shouldn't be reading! I should be WRITING so that other people can be READING MY stuff" which is kind of silly, because reading helps writing SO MUCH. Cough, anyway. Inbedwithbooks made me want to finish Shiver with it's very smart in-depth open review, mainly of Grace's psychological motivations and their effect on the story and on her actions.
It turned out that the review was not only a mere review but a RESPONSE to The Rejectionist's very angry review of Shiver. I had never seen Rejectionist's blog before so this was, I thought, an excellent opportunity to both find out more about Shiver AND see a cool new-to-me blog.

Upon reading The Rejectionist's review, which made a large number of excellent points just as inbedwithbooks did, I encountered an argument I've been encountering since Twilight magically got popular. (Look, they're not bad books, but I still say Stephenie Meyer made some sort of deal with the devil to warrant their crazy success! CRAZY SUCCESS!)
Oh God, I hope this blog doesn't become popular enough for me to get angry people taking "deal with the devil" seriously...

This argument is that in these popular YA novels of paranormal romance, particularly Twilight and now, Shiver, we are manufacturing a sort of newly acceptable form of misogyny. Girl will do anything to be able to devote her life and BEING to a man- what makes it acceptable and I guess, intriguing (?) is that the MAN in question is some sort of supernatural hunk. Which of course, must make the situation much different than in real life, mustn't it?

The problem is that well, we're probably not actually going to find a large number of supernatural hunks out there. Come on. If immortals and shapeshifters and blood-drinkers were really so stupid and careless as to let their existence become known to so many damn teenage girls, we wouldn't only see them in works of fiction. Obviously, they're much more discrete. ;)

Bella annoyed the hell out of me in the Twilight books, but somehow I still had to read them. In fact, so did Edward and Jacob. I'm enjoying the movie version of Jacob quite a bit though, I have to say...
I didn't give TOO much thought to Bella being annoyingly willing to make all kinds of crazy sacrifices for Edward and COMPLETELY breaking down when he leaves just after reading the books, and so on and so forth. I also thought it was highly amusing when several whiny male friends complained to me that they couldn't get girls because all the girls wanted Edward Cullen, and were "waiting for my Edward" (apparently one of them put it that way).

In fact, upon my initial readings I had a much bigger problem with the men of the books.
Edward was more tolerable to me in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, but in New Moon I couldn't STAND him. He seemed like such an idiot! I skipped most of the ending, I admit. But come on! Right away he assumed that Bella was dead, he didn't GO to Forks to investigate. Just like stupid effing ROMEO (I can't stand him either) he is so eager to commit suicide that he runs off to do it right away! And then, when Poor Bella RUSHES to Italy to save the stupid guy, he doesn't back off because he thinks he must be dead too, and in heaven.

I wanted to punch him in the face. I would have said "Bella, why didn't you just let him DIE?" but they already say stuff like that WAY too much in those books.

One has to admit though, that the fact that we all feel so strongly about these books (whether in a good or bad way) means something. I'm just not sure what. Good writing, perhaps? Who knows? Not me.

I understand what books like Shiver and Twilight are aiming for. True love is but the noblest of pursuits...or whatever, right? And with inbedwithbooks' very apt explanation and review, it becomes easy to see why Grace from Shiver would be so quick to devote herself to the one person who seems to give a shit about her.

But The Rejectionist has a very good and frightening point. People are flocking to these books that depict seemingly weak-willed women who will do anything for one certain man. Women who are utterly devastated and ruined without their "love"s. And yes, breaking up sucks, and sometimes it's rough to be alone, especially with the emphasis of importance our culture already puts on having a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. But we should stop gathering around the message that women live for men. There are all kinds of bad connotations behind that statement. It's FINE for a woman to be able to cook (Bella cooks for her father, Grace cooks for her family)! In fact, I wish I possessed the skill myself.
Though I do make pretty good French Toast.
But there are so many little tidbits that add up with characters like these two. Bella has to be protected by pretty much EVERYONE, not just because she's a fish-out-of-water mortal with the Cullen family, but because she's already accident prone! Accident prone and in need of men to take care of her when she falls down or cuts herself or crashes some vehicle or whatever. Bella needs to make herself perfect and invincible (i.e. a vamp) to be able to hold onto her true love forever.
Things like that just rub me the wrong way.
It's a little more tolerable in Grace's case, I suppose, because Sam is the only person who's ever really taken a real interest in her, out of her friends and parents. With Bella I felt there was a lot more condescension between her and her peers. But again, the thing about these two young women is that these GUYS are what MOTIVATES them. When they actually go out and do exciting things, it has to do with their men. Bella's practically made into a martyr of some sort.
Women shouldn't always have to change for men (and vice versa, to be fair), whether it's into a vampire, or a housewife, or whatever.

All my thoughts are flying out of my mind right now.

I suppose I'm just getting tired of wimpy heroines who need to be rescued by larger-than-life male heroes who make the women constantly think "How did I land this guy? He's so perfect!" I don't need to keep reading about frail (BELLA) little princess girls who just want to be rescued. I'm glad Stephenie Meyer made Bella scholarly and smart, but I'm not a fan of what use she put it to. I was annoyed at "Need" as well, which started out in a completely intriguing and eery tone and turned out to be another tale about a teenage girl in paranormal peril.

Also, the poor men! I understand that sometimes teenage guys seem inadequate, if this attraction to these books has anything to do with that. But come on. Edward's FREEZING, for Christ sake's...

Sigh. I don't know. I started my book in middle school, and honestly? The first motivation I had was to create a character who could be much stronger than myself. I wanted to write a story about someone who could exact revenge upon those people who are just mean for no good reason. When you're a kid that's one of the things you notice, I guess. I saw people get made fun of for looking different, I saw people get alienated for no good reason. And once, some girl tried to start a fight with me because of the way I was facing in my chair...

I like to read/write about strong people, and I like to read about bad people getting what they deserve. Because in all honesty, that doesn't happen often enough in life.

And if we're going to use YA books to set the female gender back a few years in progress, I'm not going to be a part of it. I think all people should get their just desserts, but not that women should always be rescued appropriately and men should always be in the rescuing business.

Given all this, I'm looking forward to see what nits are picked out of my book when/if certain people read it. Maybe these writers had no idea what kind of characters they were creating.

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